When you think of the ocean, you probably envision beautiful blue waters and sandy beaches where you can relax by listening to the ocean waves crashing against the shore. While this is a great aspect of the ocean, there’s much more to it than meets the eye. There’s an entire ecosystem under the ocean’s surface that provides food and materials that make our everyday lives possible. Over 70% of our Earth’s surface is made up of that ocean water, and it’s critically important to take care of it as much as we possibly can. Below, Ranger Mac will look at several reasons why we need to take ocean conservation more seriously.
Overfishing is Draining Life from the Ocean
We currently have a big problem with the overfishing of the ocean waters. Not only are fish being hunted in record numbers, but there’s also little regulation in place to ensure that this problem slows down. Many species of fish are so overfished that they are close to extinction. Many commonly eaten fish species have all but disappeared, and many companies cover up the problem by using the same name for different fish meat, changing from one type to another as populations decline.
Many areas are in need of long-term restrictions or even fishing bans if the species are to ever make full recoveries. Not only are some fish species going extinct from the ocean waters, but this overfishing also takes the food supply away from other ocean life as well, meaning we are affecting the entire ocean. Overfishing is creating a shift in ocean life that will have a larger impact on the ecosystem of the ocean and human diets if some bans and regulations are not put in place and enforced immediately. Unfortunately this will require a lot of tricky international cooperation.
We're Hunting Important Predators
The food web of ocean life is also in jeopardy by the needless hunting of many of the larger species at the top of the food chain. Sharks are hunted for nothing more than their fins, but these predators are an important part of the ocean’s ecosystem. Since sharks are at the top of the food chain, their reproduction rate is low, and they cannot easily bounce back from being over-hunted. These sharks are caught and their fins cut off. They are then tossed back into the ocean to die, leaving a large waste to not only human consumption but to ocean life as well. Sharks help keep other species in a controlled number. If the predators’ numbers begin to shrink, that means the species lower on the food chain will become out of balance, creating a troubling effect on the ocean’s ecosystem. It’s a balance of power that will shift in a bad way for ocean life if these predators keep being hunted in such great numbers.
As the human population continues to grow, we are producing record amounts of trash and pollution. Even with improving efforts of sustainable energy production and recycling, we continue to dump tons and tons of waste into the ocean each year. Recently, plastic waste has come into the spotlight as a huge factor in harming the ocean’s wellbeing. Although bottles, bags, and other plastic trash are a nuisance, a bigger worry is our use of micro-plastics in our clothes, cleaning supplies, and other products. Micro-plastics are taking over our water supplies and oceans to the detriment of every living creature on Earth.
Oceans Are Our Lifeline
Not only are the ocean waters used to transport goods from one location to another, but one-sixth of the protein we consume comes from the ocean waters. If we continue to tear apart the ocean with our trash and overfishing, we will be doing nothing more than helping our own selves become extinct in the process. The ocean also regulates the earth’s temperature, generates half the oxygen we breathe, and absorbs carbon dioxide so we can survive. It helps support all organisms on Earth.
Ocean Life Will Eventually Only Exist in the History Books
If we don’t make some drastic changes soon, scientists predict that there will eventually be no more coral reefs at all. The outlook for these beautiful organic structures is bleak if we keep treating the ocean and all the species that live there this way. Sure, you can go see wildlife and marine life at the zoo or an aquarium, but it’s simply not the same as being able to snorkel in the ocean and see it up close and personal for yourself.
Not only are the reefs wonderful places for sightseeing, but they provide crucial benefits to marine life and the Earth’s ecosystems as a whole. Here are just a few major benefits of the reefs:
- They protect our coasts from damaging waves and storms.
- They provide habitats for many important and wonderful organisms.
- They’re the source of nitrogen and other nutrients for most marine food chains.
- They play a part in carbon and nitrogen fixing, as well as nutrient recycling.
Not only is our overuse of plastics and pollutants hurting the reefs, but the change in temperatures due to climate change is also having an adverse effect on them. If this trend stays as it is, there could eventually be no more diving and snorkeling in any reefs, as well as major issues with many food webs.
Conserve Because You Can
The ocean ecosystem should be a concern for everyone, because it's our lifeline now and for future generations. There are some simple steps you can take to help conserve the ocean, such as:
- Avoid the purchase of souvenirs that exploit marine life.
- Don’t support tour companies that don’t support ocean conservation.
- Take care of the beach you surf or tan at. Leave it better than you found it. Be careful of which sunscreens and body products you use when swimming near reefs.
- Stop using so many plastic, throwaway products. Take a reusable water bottle and reusable grocery sacks.
- Only purchase seafood that’s certified sustainable.
The more you make yourself aware of the ocean and ways you can help conserve it, the more you can help get the word out and help others make those small changes alongside you. It may not seem like you’re doing a lot, but when others around you see you doing those little things, they too may start doing them. These changes help protect our Earth’s most important resource – its water. If you want to learn how to help even more with conservation efforts, check out citizen science projects in your area!